Technology is a marvelous thing. There is more computing power in your pocket right now than was used to land men on the moon. Advanced computer and software technologies can predict natural disasters, stop crime and even drive driverless cars. Artificial intelligence is a powerful reality, and not just a comic book plotline. With all of these wonderful technological advances, there is an inescapable conclusion: technology coupled with raw, unbiased data offers superior solutions to human judgement.
Yes, the interpretation of data offers insight into overall trends and tendencies that can’t be accounted for by a person. However, pure data by itself can never be used without context. Here is why.
The Misuse of Big Data
Forbes recently released a compelling article exploring how big data deceived the U.S. in the Vietnam War. Even then people saw the tremendous potential in using numbers to make decisions. Numbers were superior to decisions made by humans because humans are biased and faulted in judgment. So, the U.S. war strategy played to the numbers. Success was measured by the amount of bombs dropped on the enemy, land area controlled by American forces and the ratio of enemy casualties to American casualties. According to those metrics, America was winning the war across the board. Strategies were conceptualized and executed accordingly. In a sense, the lives of thousands of soldiers rested with a spreadsheet.